Caroline Graham began her writing career in 1971, primarily composing scripts for radio and television. Her first two novels, Fire Dance (1982) and Envy of a Stranger (1984), went virtually unnoticed, and she did not gain a measure of fame until her creation of Detective Chief Inspector Barnaby of Midsomer Worthy in The Killings at Badger’s Drift (1987) on the advice of her publicist. The novels in the Barnaby series, which are about unthinkable crimes in small English villages, remind the reader of mysteries by writers such as Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers, but through Graham’s inclusion of video cameras, cell phones, and computers, she brings her stories into the modern era.
Graham’s novels charm the reader with layers of wit and dark humor. She fills her works with a vocabulary that reveals her botanical and theater interests and with alluring real-life characters ranging from blacksmith, to librarian, to lord of the manor. Her novels deal with village life and its inner workings, and using the picturesque village setting as a backdrop, she creates strange twists of plot that would seem to be more likely to occur in a larger city. Her characters often deceive others by having the appearance of wealth although their true financial circumstances are quite desperate. Graham takes the reader into the ugly, hidden reality of some of the villagers’ lives. By highlighting the eccentricities of some of the villagers and their struggles with class, she has created an alluring setting for crimes that are shocking and ironic partly because of where they occur.